Carbonated soft drinks are a popular and convenient beverage that many people enjoy. The sweetness and fizziness of soda make it a tempting choice, but have you ever considered its impact on your health? Consuming sugary beverages has been linked to a plethora of health issues, including weight gain, dental problems, and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the negative effects of drinking soda can also extend to one of the most essential organs in your body: the kidneys.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins and regulating fluid balance, which plays a crucial role in maintaining your overall good health. Excessive consumption of soda might increase your risk of kidney issues such as chronic kidney disease and kidney stones. By understanding the complex relationship between drinking soda and your renal health, you can make more informed choices about the beverages you choose.
The link between soda and kidney stones
Soda’s link to kidney stones is a major cause for concern. The high fructose content in sugary sodas can lead to increased uric acid production and calcium oxalate stone formation. A 2020 study published in Urology Research & Practice found that frequent consumption of sugar-sweetened soda was associated with a higher risk of kidney stone formation. However, that wasn’t the first time this link was established. An earlier study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in 2013 found that consumption of sugar-sweetened soda was associated with a higher risk of kidney stone formation while drinking coffee, tea, beer, wine, and orange juice was associated with a lower risk.
Separately, study published in 2007 in the journal Epidemiology suggests that excessive phosphoric acid consumption may lead to higher levels of urinary calcium, which can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Cola drinks in particular contain anywhere between 50 and 70 milligrams of phosphoric acid per 100 milliliters, so this can quickly add up. This acidic nature can also affect the overall pH balance in the body and impact kidney function.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and soda
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive and debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains. It’s a condition characterized by the gradual loss of kidney function over time, leading to the accumulation of waste and fluids in the body. In recent years, there has been a growing body of evidence suggesting a link between soda consumption and CKD.
Excessive sugar in soda, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, can overburden kidneys. The kidneys have to work harder to filter and excrete excess sugar in the bloodstream, potentially leading to kidney strain over time. Phosphoric acid, a common component in cola drinks, has raised concerns.
In the 2007 study published in Epidemiology, which included over 6,000 participants who were followed for an average of 7.5 years, researchers from the University of North Carolina found that people who drank two or more carbonated beverages per day had a 2.3-fold increased risk of developing CKD compared to those who drank less than one carbonated beverage per week. This association was independent of other risk factors for CKD, such as age, sex, race, body mass index, diabetes, and hypertension. Excess soda consumption can also contribute to high blood pressure, another risk factor for kidney damage, per the American Heart Association.
Promoting kidney health with moderation and wise choices
Taking a few simple steps towards moderation and healthier choices can kick off your journey to protecting your kidney health. A good start is gradually reducing your soda intake and opting for water, herbal teas, or naturally flavored water to quench your thirst. It is also important to be mindful of portion sizes and limit soda consumption to occasional treats.
Adequate hydration is vital to kidney health (via the National Kidney Foundation). A wide array of flavorful, healthy beverage options are available that can quench your thirst and nourish your kidneys, such as green tea or sparkling water with lemon. Drinking water throughout the day can support the function of your kidneys.
It is equally important to raise awareness about kidney health. Being mindful of the effects of what you consume and the role it plays in your health can empower you to protect your well-being. Your kidneys are invaluable organs that require care and attention. As you reach for your next drink, choose wisely, savor the benefits of moderation, and raise a glass to the health and longevity of your kidneys.